Ex Machina's subtle sci-fi effects won over Hollywood this year, netting it the 2016 Oscar for Best Visual Effects. It was a bit of a surprise win for the movie. Ex Machina was nominated for two awards tonight, including Best Original Screenplay (which it lost to Spotlight). As a relatively under-the-radar film, it easily could have been overshadowed here by bigger names like, you know, Star Wars. It also won over Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, and The Revenant.
The team behind Ex Machina's VFX — Andrew Whitehurst, Paul Norris, Mark Ardington, and Sara Bennett — specifically called out Alicia Vikander's performance as Ava in the movie. Vikander's eerie persona and careful movements were certainly crucial in selling the team's effects, which had most of her body replaced with metal, wires, and mesh. It's the type of effect that you stare at for an entire movie without being totally aware it's in front of you, but the Academy was apparently cognizant enough of the work behind Ava's look to vote Ex Machina to victory.
Watch Chris Rock's opening monologue